BRUSSELS, July 1, 2009 (AFP) – Dutch cyclist Thomas Dekker has been ruled out of the Tour de France three days before the start after testing positive for the banned blood-booster EPO, his Silence team announced Wednesday.
The sample was originally taken on December 24, 2007, but Silence said that new procedures introduced since then allowed for further tests which revealed a positive reading for EPO.
World cycling’s governing body the UCI said it had also taken into account elements of Dekker’s blood profile in his biological passport in 2008 and 2009 to order disciplinary proceedings on suspicion of doping.
Dekker, scheduled to help two-time Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia in the hillier stages of this year’s race, now faces suspension from his team and a likely ban.
Silence said on their internet site that the 24-year-old fell victim to the vigilance of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), who had called for further testing of a sample taken, randomly, from him on Christmas Eve two years ago.
“He found out on Wednesday morning that fresh analysis, carried out in May at the behest of WADA, on urine samples from a random doping control had turned up positive for EPO,” the team reported.
“The first tests had turned up negative but the samples were kept for retroactive testing so that newer forms of EPO could be detected with the latest detection methods.”
At the time the samples were taken Dekker competed for the Rabobank team, whose leader, Denis Menchov, is a yellow jersey contender this year.
The International Cycling Union said in a statement that it had “instructed the Monegasque Cycling Federation, to which Mr Dekker is affiliated, to open disciplinary proceedings on this matter.”
“The UCI’s request is based on two elements of evidence collected within the biological passport programme: Mr Dekker’s haematological profile and a laboratory report indicating the detection of recombinant EPO (Dynepo) in a urine sample.
“According to a panel of scientific experts, the haematological profile established from blood samples collected from Mr Dekker in 2008 and 2009 demonstrates convincing evidence of the use of the prohibited method of enhancement of oxygen transfer.”
It was that suspicion of blood doping that prompted the UCI to have new tests on Dekker’s urine sample from December 2007, that came out positive for EPO.
It is not the first time the Dutchman who won the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in 2006 and the Tour of Lombardy in 2007 has been embroiled in controversy.
In August last year it was reported that he was not selected for the Tour de France because of abnormally high blood parameters, an indication, though not proof, that blood manipulation has taken place.
Dekker will now be replaced by Briton Charles Wegelius, according to team manager Marc Sergeant.
“I’m very disappointed. It happened when he was not competing for Silence and was at Rabobank, but still that doesn’t make the news any less welcome,” said Sergeant.
Dekker has also collaborated in the past with Italian trainer Michele Ferrari, who has been controversially linked with administering EPO since the 1990s.
Ferrari is best known for having worked with seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who in 2001 admitted he had collaborated with the Italian doctor.
The use of EPO boosts the oxygen-rich blood cells in the blood, thus allowing athletes to work harder and for longer.
Photo by: CorVos Pro